“utang na loob,” sa pananaw ng OFW (the Filipino’s debt of gratitude, in an OFW’s eyes)


rock-climbers-helping-each-other-1[Google Translate says it all : type in utang na loob in the space for Filipino and the English translation says “indebtedness” which very insufficiently describes what you want described. Just a few of our thoughts on the matter. thanks for reading, thanks and photo acknowledgment to carryonfriends.com]

NAPAKAHIRAP IPALIWANAG sa dayuhan ang kunsepto ng utang na loob. Sa simpleng formula ng dagdag at bawas, once nakapagbayad ka ng utang, tapos na yon. Di madaling intindihin ang tuloy-tuloy at walang-tigil na pagtanaw ng utang sa katrabaho, kaibigan o kamag-anak. Kung hindi ka Pinoy or may asawang Pinoy, di makukuha sa unang paliwanag (o kahit pangalawa) ang katagang utang na loob.

What we fail to explain to many non-Filipinos (and probably to ourselves) is that although the idea of utang na loob is abstract to others and particular to our culture, in my humble opinion utang na loob in itself is subdivided into different levels and degrees. A good situation in which to explain utang na loob is the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) setting, where at the outset, the OFW is almost always forced to ask help from others.

But before that, I need a working definition of utang na loob that hopefully you will agree with, that we can both use. From personal experience, what we hear, and popular culture, utang na loob for me is a debt that may or may not be financial, so massive that it may take a lifetime to pay, or a debt that can never be repaid, from the perspective of either the creditor or debtor, or sometimes both. Does that work? OK.

For a better understanding of utang na loob, the theory is that all debts under this category take a lifetime of payback, that you keep paying it back, only in different degrees. The person you borrow from may think you returned too much, or “sobra ang bawi,” and may likewise feel obligated to return some of it, therefore repeating the process of having to pay it back, and so forth and so on:

Minor utang na loob, or little things to help the OFW’s family while the OFW is away. When the OFW leaves, his wife is left with multiple kids and responsibilities. Undoubtedly she’ll need a little help babysitting and minding the household. You do this, because well you take care of your own kids anyway, what’s one more. Besides, your kumpare’s son gets along with your own. The two boys become as close as siblings, going to school together, playing after school, even having sleepovers. You look after the boy as if he was your own. Your kumpare never forgets this small kindness, and when you yourself need a little assistance when it’s your turn to go abroad, he looks after your son. Just returning the favor.

I don’t know if we can classify this as utang na loob, actually, because it’s not massive and it doesn’t take a lifetime to pay back. But it’s the unanticipated sneakiness of the transaction, for example I do this for you, you do this for me. It’s almost like an I scratch your back you scratch mine affair. Before you know it, there’s been a lifetime of doing and returning favors. But still the spirit of utang na luob is there.

Moderate utang na loob, or favors relatives would do for each other, that makes life a lot easier for the debtor. A good example for this is the newcomer or newbie OFW in a strange land. His friend or distant relative has been there ahead of the newbie, and therefore has had a chance to settle his affairs, found a place to stay etc. or even bring in all or part of his family to stay as long as he works in said strange land.

So the one ahead (let’s call him the kuya  or senior OFW) does the natural and decent thing: he takes the bunso or younger OFW in, gives him room and board, feeds him a couple of weeks, does everything for him while the latter prepares himself for living overseas. Even documentation, paperwork, getting a car, all the little (but big) things that make life so much easier, and more importantly, shelters the junior OFW from unscrupulous and the fraudsters, sadly some of them OFWs themselves, and saving him a whole lot of wasted cash, disappointment and hassle.

Because of this, junior OFW gets settle in easily, gets his family earlier than expected, and his life prospers ahead of schedule. What does he do? Years later, when senior OFW gets sick, needs to go home (he has not prepared for the uncertainties of illness and occupational hazards) and leaves everything behind, bunso or younger OFW takes in the family of the elder who have suddenly become homeless and vulnerable, filling in the gaps while all the resources are devoted to Kuya’s recovery. And when Kuya OFW’s retirement finally arrives, who else is there for the help and support while Kuya’s family gets back on its feet? Of course it’s Bunso OFW, now a manager, who hires Kuya’s eldest son to work abroad, repeating history, and paying forward the kindness he so gratefully received from Kuya years back.

Madalas tayong makakita ng pagganti ng utang na loob between our kabayan, but in reality it’s often seen between co-workers, townmates (magkababayan) and relatives. It’s a revival and extension of the Golden Rule, doing for others what you’d want them to do for you. Especially in times of need.

Major utang na loob, or massive favors that change the lives of the debtor for the better. I forgot to mention that junior or bunsong OFW even before being helped by Kuya OFW, already incurred a massive debt of gratitude from his godfather or Ninong. His godfather not only paid the recruitment fee that enlisted Junior for that precious job abroad, Ninong also lent him money for the airplane ticket, without which his first day on the job wouldn’t have been possible.

The utang (debt) was a “soft loan,” meaning pay when able, payable whenever and wherever Junior and his family was ready to pay. Loans like these are often without interest and can remain unpaid for many years if at all. No matter, Ninong never expected it to be repaid anyway.

But Bunsong OFW was and is a man of gratitude and long memory. He not only repaid the debt in full within three years (albeit without  interest), when Ninong unexpectedly died and left behind a widow, Bunso not only rushed home to take care of the funeral and post-funeral details, he also asked his Ninang (not really a godmother but out of respect a title given to his godfather’s wife) first to visit them abroad, and then ultimately to live with them. This, something Ninang’s own children couldn’t do for her.

***************               ***************               ***************

But Bunso, his wife or kids didn’t care. For him, it was merely a debt being repaid, although the principal was repaid many many years ago. He was merely doing what he thought was expected of him. Not only was his Ninang like family to him and considered a second mother, he and the rest of his family felt happy doing it. Unsurprisingly, his family was all the better for it, as Ninang, grateful for being needed and the company of a second family, gave all of her life and energy, until literally the end of her life.

All’s well that ends well, for such is the nature of utang na loob. For sure sometimes it’s abused, but on balance it is here to stay with us Filipinos.

What is your idea of utang na loob? Answers will be appreciated, kabayan or no.

Thanks for reading, happy Easter! Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay!

ang pagbabalik: why homecomings are important to Pinoy migrants


 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sa gitna ng dilim
Ako ay nakatanaw
Ng ilaw na kay panglaw
Halos ‘di ko makita
Tulungan mo ako
Ituro ang daan
Sapagkat ako’y sabik
Sa aking pinagmulan  – lyrics from an Asin song

[Maraming salamat, to sya, muchas gracias and thanks very much in advance for making our visit to the Inang Bayan so memorable and enjoyable. Sa uulitin po! ]

NANG PAGBALIK namin mula sa probinsya this year’s vacay, where I met and paid respects to my in-laws, I have been meeting friends, contemporaries, relatives and more friends.

No exaggeration, four Manila gatherings in five nights, I couldn’t say no because each event was organized for me, and people made the effort out of their busy schedules just to see me. So no way I could  miss each and any of those balikbayan get-togethers, in incidentally my first visit since late 2016 to early 2017.

I saw classmates, friends and peers I hadn’t met in years and years. Most of them had married, gone through tough times in both work and business, kids and relationships and survived. Most had worked their way from the bottom, and were now reaping the fruits of their labor. Kids in good schools and nearing the end of their mortgage, these guys were looking forward to comfort in middle age with an eye towards retirement.

What about me? Looking at these guys, I couldn’t help but feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep around twenty years in a cave, only to wake up and find out time had passed him by. Of course I hadn’t been asleep, only working in a land far away and staying out of the loop from people I had spent most of my life with, previously.

Had it been worth it? I won’t know for now. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staying permanently in my second home overseas or come back home from my years away.

I only know that despite seeing the people and things I missed, I need to keep doing this, coming back as often as I can:

My parents aren’t getting any younger. Dad is 86, Mom is 79. I would like them to be around forever, they’ve always been there for me, and in the same way I’d like to be there for them. But the laws of God and nature limit us to fourscore and 10 (90), and anything above that is simply a bonus. Being overseas limits my time with them, so going home as often as I can allows me the most time with them that I can manage.

I need to see what I missed to inspire myself to work harder. For sure, I missed seeing my family grow up in the Philippines. I missed the chances and opportunities of developing a career back home. I missed bonding with friends and family in the place I grew up in.  All this for a chance to live a better life abroad. So far it’s been a good choice. But I will always ask myself what could have been. I can’t answer that question yet, but I know I’ll have an answer eventually if I go home every chance I can.

I need to keep in touch with the land I was born in. Nothing is sweeter to the displaced Filipino (voluntary or otherwise) than to go home to his village, his family and his country. Before the sense of nationalism, there is the strong affinity for the community to which one was born, and before that of course, there is the sense of identity with the family one is born into. This hierarchy is common to many cultures, and none more so than to our own Filipino culture.

***************               **************               ***************

It may sound cheesy, but I’m energized, inspired and refreshed every time I go home. My sense of perspective and purpose gets a reboot every time I see my family members and renew my sense of belonging. Above all, I get to remind myself what’s important: where I came from, and where I will always belong.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

forever Kiwi, forever Pinoy : mabuhay ka Angelo Tuyay!


Angelo Tuyay. apologies in advance to the Tuyay family for blogging about him in advance without consulting them. photo acknowledgment to the New Zealand Herald.

[Posthumously the Order of the Knights of Rizal Wellington Chapter has awarded kabayan Angelo Tuyay a certificate of commendation for his heroic and brave act, a small token of our immense appreciation. Two nations are grateful to you kabayan! ]

AFTER LONG days and graveyard shifts, my lower back feels sore and dodgy (sinusumpong). My joints aren’t that great, either, but it’s partly due to a little too much beer, no fault of my body and all due to my stubbornness. It takes longer to get ready in the morning, but ask anyone my age and that’s no surprise.

**********          **********          **********

I’m alive though, and to greet the day alive and well is more than anything I could ask for. Besides knowing my family is likewise alive and well, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For a certain kabayan though, some things are worth more than the things we take for granted above. For him, helping others in need, in trouble, is the reason for being in this world. There is no limit attached to this duty of helping others, not even to the extent of making the supreme sacrifice.

**********          **********          *********

Facts are scant, but to use a Filipino term, traydor (treacherous) rip currents hid beneath otherwise calm waters at Hot Water Beach near Auckland last week.

Kabayan Angelo Tuyay leapt head first, fully clothed into the water upon hearing the cries of two girls who were in obvious distress due to rip currents, also known as an”undertow.”

Angelo was able to keep the girls afloat until help arrived. Unfortunately, he was himself in trouble and unable to keep himself from taking water in.

Fifty-five minutes were used by four doctors present trying to revive our kabayan. At that point, he was declared dead.

In retrospect, we would like to define in those fateful last moments Angelo’s heroic acts:

instant and without hesitation – The moment he realized the two young girls were in urgent need of assistance, he used every last ounce of his energy, wasting not a single moment in reaching the helpless. Which was just as well, because any delay would’ve been fatal to the girls. He made the instant decision, without regard for his own safety.

selfless– Human nature is after all, a lifetime of self-preservation. But we become bigger than ourselves and our nature when, against common sense, we reach out to help someone. Angelo decided to go against human nature and put aside fears for his own welfare. That gift of himself that he gave to those two girls, the latter will treasure for the rest of their lives.

generous – We can spend our entire lives building up savings, wealth and prosperity in order to give gifts to our loved ones. But nothing, nothing can match the gift of offering up one’s own life in order to preserve those of others. It is a gift that is both priceless and precious. It has no value in money terms, and yet it is the gift that is worth more than any material thing that the wealthiest man on earth could give.

It is this gift that Angelo gave, that has honored life, and which has honored us all.

**********          **********          **********

In one act, Angelo has fused the supreme values of both Filipinos and Kiwis – that of helping others at the expense of self. Call it bayanihan. Call it Kiwi-ness.

That day, before God called him back to Paradise, Angelo Tuyay was forever Pinoy, forever, Kiwi, and eternally both.

God bless Angelo Tuyay, and God bless us all. Mabuhay!

 

 

 

napakasakit Kuya Eddie – why Pinoys accept physical abuse at work


[nothing as outrageous as the video above, but when abuse is tolerated and accepted at the workplace it opens a Pandora’s boxThanks to South China Morning Post for the vid!]

WE READ and then reread the article about a kabayan Filipino being maltreated and abused  by his employers in the South Island.

It got to the point where we were disoriented, dismayed and finally disgusted that such could happen in this day and age in modern-day New Zealand, but that was on the surface.

You know what? Deep down, I wasn’t really that surprised.

***************               ***************               ****************

When I was in Auckland little more than a decade ago, my flatmate told me (and he had no reason to lie) his Countdown (supermarket) supervisor flicked an open hand across the back of his head in annoyance, something that never happened to him in the Philippines.

Goodwife Mahal had barely been in Wellington for more than a month when we both witnessed a food court manager doing the same thing (between a kutos and sapok) across the back of the head of his female cashier while we were waiting for our burger and fries order. We didn’t realize the consequence of the situation (a male supervisor physically assaulting a female staffer in front of multiple witnesses) until long after we got home.

And I myself received a flick of two fingers to the back of my earlobe (called a pitik back home) by a senior mentor a few years back. Granted, the mentor is/was very old school (in his 60s) and was done partly in jest or good-natured annoyance, but I’m not justifying it. It’s always contextual, but anytime interaction between manager and staff becomes physical, you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, let’s bring the level down a bit.

***************               ***************               ***************

What was reported in the article was certainly shocking, but it wasn’t new by any measure. Just two weeks back, another kabayan was forced to leave work after suffering neck and arm bruises just because he walked out of his work area, not that any situation justifies physical harm or abuse from the employer.

So we’re now more or less settled : physical abuse not only exists in the NZ workplace, it’s not rare, and empirical evidence shows it can happen in any industry or region. But an equally perplexing puzzle that comes to my mind is, why do Filipinos like you and me seem to tolerate it? There’s no proof of this, but the fact that it took quite a while for the subjects in the situations above before formally making a complaint, legal or otherwise, is quite astounding. But you and I kabayan know that this kind of reluctance is far more common than anyone will admit, and it is quite common.

These are the reasons I’ve come up with:

Old school respect shouldn’t mean tolerating abuse. There’s a very large variety of age groups among Filipino workers, from the teens, working students, twentysomethings all the way to the very senior, primarily because, well,  there are quite a few  Pinoys in New Zealand, but also because there is no age discrimination in New Zealand. But despite the various age groups, we’re very old-school, meaning traditional, when it comes to respecting and acknowledging authority in the workplace. (New Zealanders on the other hand are generally more collegial and collaborative.) This has its roots in our Filipino traditions for respect for our elders, respect for those in authority, and respect for the head of the family, instilled in us since time immemorial.

Because of the extreme trust we place in those who manage above us, it is prone to abuse, sometimes literally. What can sometimes begin in innocent jokes can lead to verbal abuse, and finally to physical abuse. We Filipinos are only too vulnerable to such, because we frequently avoid arguments and are rarely confrontational, to the point of keeping quiet even when we are clearly uncomfortable.

We accept abuse as part of reparation, because we think we deserve it and are paying for it. Deep down, when we do something wrong in the workplace, we think we deserve to be punished. Again, it recalls an era when we were very young, particularly the baby boomers (born late 1940s to mid 1960s) and Gen X-ers (1970s), when corporal punishment was administered to us without the bosses batting an eyelash.

We think that because we are given some sort of “punishment,” verbal, physical or otherwise, we sort of “pay” for our mistake, and life goes back to normal. This is of course unacceptable. Mistakes are part and parcel of work life, and no amount of effing up justifies a slap, whack or worse punch from your superior. It doesn’t matter that previous bosses or managers used to do it and it was accepted as part of the norm. It is unacceptable at any level and in any situation. Filipinos should realize that, the sooner the better.

Fear of reprisal or dismissal. This is more universal, but Filipinos value job security more than many other Asians, and definitely more than local New Zealanders. Why is this so? Well, the simplest reason is that a lot of us are first generation migrants, and acquiring our jobs took much more effort than our non-migrant colleagues. Aminin man natin o hindi, we prize our employment as much as our permanent residence,  our standing in our community, our relationship with our hosts. it is huge part of our pride, our honor.

Now whenever this job security is threatened in any way, we are ourselves threatened. Never mind that we can find jobs elsewhere, and never mind that we are protected by good NZ laws in our job security. We only leave our jobs on our own terms, and we do everything we can to stay in our jobs. If this involves sacrificing our self-worth,  enduring humiliation and accepting abuse, so be it.

***************               ***************               ****************

Again, this mindset can’t be allowed to continue affecting our kabayans’ hearts and minds. It’s our inherent right to stay in our jobs as long as we do our work properly and with integrity. No one can be allowed to bully us out of our jobs, and this includes supervisors, managers, and owners of the businesses we work for.

You can say it in so many words and ways, but in the end it’s as plain as the nose on our brown faces: physical abuse is unacceptable, on any level and in any situation. The sooner we Pinoys understand this, the better for all of us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?


thanks and photo acknowledgment to FFE.com!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

***************               ***************               ***************

But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

**************               ***************               ***************

These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

***************               ***************               ***************

In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

 

 

tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia


kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

***************               ***************               ***************

If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

***************               ***************                ***************

So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

***************               ***************               ***************

Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June


main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!

 

 

 

why the NZ pinoy community is like a layered sapin-sapin


thanks and acknowledgment to manila-photos.blogspot.com

[Note : It goes without saying, but everything here is Your Loyal kaBayan Noel’s opinion. No research, no stats, just me.  If you’re still reading, thank you po. 🙂 ]

IN MORE than one local movie I saw growing up in the Philippines during the 1970s, someone would burst into a scene shouting, sunog, mga kapitbahay! SUNOG! (fire, neighbors, FIRE!) which would launch everyone in the scene into chaos, running around like headless chickens before an organized effort to put out the fire was conducted. The communication was short but sweet; the reaction instantaneous. A universal response of help for your fellow man, and an instinct towards self-preservation.

Figuratively, there are a few fires facing our little barangay community in Aotearoa, New Zealand. But the response is not as readily discernible as the cinematic fire scene above.

Instead of literal fires, we have social issues that potentially affect all Pinoys here. I picked out three major issues facing the Pinoy community in NZ today.

The first is the use of private educational training institutes to convince would-be kabayan into applying for student visas, in the hope of using a “back door” to residency. (This might’ve been effective before, but not now.) I won’t comment on whether or not this has helped Pinoys, it helps to know that an element of fraud has entered the picture, and there has been enough public discourse on the matter.

The second great issue is the situation faced by many Pinoys already in New Zealand: Is residency available, and how difficult (or easy) is it to attain such residency status? How important are the specific skills possessed by our different kabayan in improving their migrant status? Assuming a particular set of skills brought you to New Zealand shores, will the same skills give you permanent resident status? Are there any other avenues to migration success, like new legislation, amnesty, etc that are available?

Last but not the least is the ever-present issue of racism, overt and subtle, that permeates into all layers of NZ society.  It’s an issue that affects all migrants not just us Pinoys, but it’s important nevertheless.

These three issues affect us all in different ways, and to gain a personal understanding, I thought of how the NZ Pinoy community is divided, for my purposes, three generic (for lack of a better word) classes that view these and future issues in their respective ways.

(Describing or touching on the issues themselves is only incidental, my paksa is just to pigeonhole how we as Pinoys are affected and guessing at how each might react.)

WAGs and family. Or short for Wives and Girlfriends of Kiwis, and immediate family. These are our kabayan who’ve gained entry and residence into New Zealand via the partnership visa, by being wives, partners and fiancees of citizens here. On the surface, they are the ones who would have the least relateability to current issues facing migrants in New Zealand. After all, by virtue of being family, they are instantly considered New Zealanders as well, don’t you think?

It’s not as simple as that. For one thing, they have to live and work here like everyone else, and they have to prove that they are as skilled, dependable and as able to contribute to the local economy of their new home as well as the next guy (or girl). As much as anyone else, Pinay wives and partners of Kiwis keep their eye on the employment and economic pulse, because they have to compete for jobs and wages as most of us do.

Let’s be real: more than anyone else, Pinays who are here on a partnership visa don’t want to be seen as getting a free ride on living the dream in Aotearoa. They are just as skilled, hardworking, creative and results-oriented as any kayumanggi brother or sister. Some of us might mention that they are just a bit luckier than the ordinary Pinoy. Just don’t let any of them hear you. 🙂

The student visa holders. These are the kabayan who got here to study a field of expertise, allowed to look for a job for a certain period here in NZ after graduation, and if successful allowed to apply for permanent resident status.

I’ll be brutally honest with you: these are the kabayan who are affected most by the current issue of fraud in the migrant education industry, because the system is being abused in other countries. In the Philippines we aren’t entirely innocent either, unscrupulous kabayan use the dream of using a “shortcut” pathway to living in NZ permanently via the student visa: it simply isn’t done that way.

Some kabayan have hit the home run so to speak of attaining PR (permanent resident) status but they did it the hard, old-fashioned way. They applied for specialty courses in fields where very few or no New Zealanders are available, acquired the necessary skills, and with the companion Pinoy sipag at tiyaga applied for jobs fitting their new qualifications after graduation. These kabayan richly deserve their migrant rewards because they worked for it.

The skilled migrant pathway users. These are the guys who went through the proverbial eye of the needle. They acquired their experience and expertise in the Philippines, the Middle East, all over the world. They were lucky enough to be in professions that were badly needed in New Zealand. And they were either direct hires or gambled time and money looking for jobs that suited their qualifications before striking gold with a Kiwi employer using their particular talent and skill.

You know the script : Nurse, I.T. engineer, scaffolder, carpenter, builder, caregiver, teacher, all the traditional jobs and professions Pinoys are good at. But there are dozens and dozens of other positions we fill, simply because we are needed in the New Zealand workplace : communications linemen, draftsmen, allied medical professions like x-ray technicians, phlebotomists, physiotherapists; the list goes on and on.

Of course you’d expect the partnership visa holders, student visa holders and skilled migrant pathway visa holders to all be affected by an migrant related issue in New Zealand. Each time a Pinoy is granted entry here, we stake our country’s reputation as honest, hardworking, dependable, grateful, courteous, cheerful workers who only want a chance to live the New Zealand dream of a living wage for an honest day’s work.

It’s just we react a little differently depending on how we got here. The Pinoy community has so many layers, like the multi-colored sapin-sapin. The examples above barely scratch the surface.

It’s up to each of us to show others we deserve our precious Pinoy reputation, and everyday the challenge is renewed.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat! Thanks for reading!

 

looking for kalakbay : shared travel among kabayan


[thanks and acknowledgment to Fly Pal for the video above. Mabuhay!]

MY VERY first trip back to New Zealand from a balikbayan vacation, I sat next to a kabayan who was a nearly-perfect traveling companion on the last leg of an exciting but wearying journey: a five-hour snoozer between Sydney and Wellington.

He made small talk the first hour before we both gave in to fatigue (I’m sure he was also on the 11-hour flight I was on between Manila and Sydney), quieted down after the hot meal provided so that we could take a much-needed nap, and asked if I needed to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I had the middle seat). I couldn’t have asked for a better kalakbay (co-traveler) if I had ordered one.

But interestingly (or Pinoyly) enough, some kabayan board a flight wanting or needing someone to be with them for a variety of reasons : it’s their first time travelling and are unsure of the different tasks needed to get through their flight smoothly; a lack of traveling confidence, or extreme tenderness or seniority in years finds a helping hand while traveling quite useful.

**********     **********     **********

Prior to wife Mahal’s first trip to Wellington, she was matched up on the Pinoy e-bulletin board with a mom and two sons joining their dad here. The mag-ina (mom and kids) were on their first trip to New Zealand, first trip outside the Philippines, first trip on a jumbo jet, first everything. It was a lot to take for a young mother full of luggage, the normal and human kinds, and a friendly face was quite welcome.

Without Mahal asking for it, by coincidence one of the boys sat next to her and was her foster son for 12 hours, with all the details to attend to, the real mom hardly minded at all. She occupied herself with minding a 7-year old, helped out a kabayan family, and got free practice as a harassed mom.

The kids are probably teenagers now, almost grown-up young men who won’t even recognize Mahal. But the memories remain, especially with the mom, and future mom.

**********     **********     **********

Then on our last trip back 2017, we were texted (again through introductions on the New Zealand e-group) that a lola (grandmom) was visiting her kids and grandkids in Johnsonville, a Pinoy stronghold in Wellington region. Would we be kind enough to escort her? In true bayanihan spirit, how could we not?

We had a merry mixup texting with more than one of her Manila-based sons and looking for her, but we didn’t give up. Binilin sya sa amin (she was entrusted to us) so we couldn’t enter the boarding area without her. True enough, she wouldn’t leave her son without seeing us first, and we entered the restricted area together.

Although we weren’t seatmates throughout the entire journey (Manila-Sydney and Sydney-Wellington), we checked in on her, ate together  and spent the stopover (a couple hours) together. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International) to Wellington Airport, we were like family.

We never saw her again after family collected her at Wellington arrivals, but the experience undoubtedly will remain with me, Mahal and lola. As should all shared travels between Pinoy kabayan.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!


overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to keywordsuggest.org! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

*****     *****     *****

Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

*****     *****     *****

LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

*****     *****     *****

It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

*****     *****     *****

Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

*****     *****     *****

For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!